For the ancients, grapes were the fruit of the gods, so much that they adorn, in many representations, the head of Dionysus, the god of wine. And, in a wonderful and fantastic work by Luciano di Samosata, a Greek author, there is an island beyond the Pillars of Hercules, sacred to Dionysus, where a river of wine flows. This river flows from a vineyard full of ripe bunches of grapes, from whose roots drops of wine jump into the river. In short, grapes have always ignited the imagination of poets and writers, they have allowed us to dream by creating myths and legends and have also given us a lot of health, as nowadays science has been able to demonstrate. So let's try to understand the incredible benefits of grapes, a fruit that should never be missing on the table when it is season, from August to September.
Grapes, a natural anti-aging
Grapes contain precious anti-aging substances, such as vitamin E and polyphenols, which counteract the damage of free radicals and the aging processes. Indeed, research estimates that grapes are among the fruits that contain the most polyphenols, in an amount that varies between 50 and 490 mg per 100 grams of product (Ulaszewska et al, Genes Nutr, 2020). In fact, when we talk about grape polyphenols, we are referring to a wide range of substances, which are distributed mainly in the skin and seeds of the berries. For example, flavanols are found mainly in the seeds and skin of grapes of all colors, both white and black, while anthocyanins are found in the skin of black grapes (Mattivi et al, Ann N Y Acad Sci, 2002).
Grapes and heart
Grapes contain precious polyphenols that have been shown to be protective for the heart. The most interesting for heart health is certainly black grapes, both in the form of whole fruit and juice, which have been shown to improve the function of the endothelium, which is the lining of blood vessels and the heart (Ulaszewska et al, Genes Nutr, 2020). This action is beneficial in case of hypertension since the intake of grapes and grape juice have been able to reduce blood pressure in case of high values (Dohadwala et al, J Nutr, 2009). Not only that, resveratrol, which is an antioxidant contained mainly in the skin of black grapes, has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, thus helping to counteract the risk of type 2 diabetes that, if not kept under control, in the long term can cause cardiovascular problems (Dohadwala et al, J Nutr, 2009). Finally, grapes and grape juice were able to reduce LDL cholesterol, or bad cholesterol, to counteract the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, the main cause of atherosclerosis, and to increase good or HDL cholesterol.
Grapes and inflammation
Thanks to the high amount of polyphenols, dark grapes counteract inflammation, being able to reduce inflammation markers such as C reactive protein (Ghalishourani et al, Phytother Res, 2021). And the interesting part is that it is not only grapes that are anti-inflammatory, but also derivative products such as juices and raisins (Sarkhosh-Khorasani et al, Br J Nutr, 2021). By reducing inflammation, grapes help fight diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular problems, neurodegeneration and tumors (Malaguarnera et al, Nutrients, 2019).
Grapes and the immune system
Grapes and their products, such as grape juice, have been shown to act by strengthening the body's natural defenses against external aggressions. In particular, it has been observed that this fruit is able to increase the amount of gamma delta T lymphocytes, which are a type of cells of the immune system very effective in fighting cells with degeneration, but also bacteria, fungi and viruses (Pistoia et al, Front Immunol, 2018).
Grapes and oral health
Yes, grapes are also an ally for oral health. In fact, eating grapes protects the teeth and the oral cavity thanks to their anti-inflammatory action and effect on the pH of bacterial plaque, making the environment less favorable to the onset of caries (Pezzuto et al, J Nutr, 2009). Very important to underline is that the beneficial effects of grapes on dental health have also been observed with grape products, such as raisins, which therefore can be a valid snack, also for breakfast, in all age groups, without never clearly neglect oral hygiene (Wu et al, J Nutr, 2009).
Grapes, lungs and obesity
What is the link between grapes, lungs and obesity? Although at first glance they seem like three separate elements, in reality there is a connection that science has clarified. Obesity causes an accumulation of adipose tissue that is not inert, but releases pro-inflammatory substances. This chronic inflammation that is created promotes various disorders also reaching the lungs, favoring or worsening asthma and in general causing alterations in lung function. Well, grapes, especially seeds and peel, are able to counteract the pro-inflammatory action on the lungs, protecting them and reversing the harmful action triggered by adipose tissue (El Ayed et al, Lipids Health Dis, 2018).
Grapes and the brain
The polyphenols in grapes also prove beneficial to the brain. In fact, it has been shown that the intake of grape extracts in elderly people improved cognitive function (Calapai et al, Front Pharmacol, 2017). But the benefits have also been seen in young people. In fact, the intake of black grape juice, thanks to its protective action on the endothelium, has improved the blood supply to the brain with benefits on cognitive function and mood (Haskell-Ramsay et al, Eur J Nutr, 2017).